In a San Diego divorce, a party's date of separation is the first date when either party subjectively (mentally) decided the marriage was over, finished, and not salvageable. The parties' overt actions usually demonstrate that subjective frame of mind. For instance, there can't be ongoing marriage counseling to save the marriage after the date of separation. The date of separation of the parties to a divorce can be a hotly contested issue. Sometimes, when parties do not agree on the date that they separated, the court must step in to help.
In fact, it is quite common for divorcing spouses to disagree about when their date of separation is. These disagreements are usually financially motivated since California is a community property state. This means that in California, community property rights only accrue from the date of marriage until the date of separation. Thus, the date of separation can significantly affect the size of the divisible community estate during a divorce. Some legal, financial, and other practical considerations for the parties to keep in mind when considering divorce and arriving at a date of separation (by way of agreement or decided by the Court) include the following:
- Stock options: Divorce attorneys will advise their clients that a later date of separation will usually give the community more interest in a stock option.
- Post-separation bonuses: A later date of separation will give the community a greater interest in a post-separation bonus upon divorce.
- Pensions: A later date of separation in a divorce will give the community more interest in a pension.
- Spousal support: A later date of separation from your spouse may provide for more spousal support. The duration of the marriage is one of the twelve factors a California court will weigh in determining the amount and duration of permanent spousal support.
- Value of a business: A later date of separation in a San Diego divorce will value a sole practitioner's business at a later date.
- Pereira or Van Kamp considerations: If the separate property business was brought into the marriage, the community's interest would stop growing at the date of separation.
The implications of the date of separation in a divorce can be quite significant. With the above considerations in mind, if for example Husband is the primary breadwinner and Wife is a stay-at-home mom, Wife may want to establish a later date of separation in order to maximize the community estate. Husband, on the other hand, may want to establish an earlier date of separation for the divorce so that his income, bonuses, commissions, etc. earned after the date of separation will be characterized as his separate property instead of community property. Clearly, selecting the date of separation can be a complicated matter that may require the advice of an experienced divorce attorney.
If you find yourself facing divorce in California and need professional advice on how to handle this difficult time and to discuss your date of separation considerations, please contact us at 858-793-8884. Nancy J. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).